Remembering Those We Have Lost
Occurring May 30th of every year, Memorial Day is an American federal holiday that celebrates the deceased from various American wars. Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because relatives and soldiers would decorate loved ones' graves. Decoration Day was originally to remember the soldiers from the Civil War. The name officially changed after World War II, and now memorializes soldiers from every war.
The roots of Memorial Day stem back to 1864 during the Civil War. The amount of casualties was enormous. The death toll from the Civil War caused America’s first large-scale cemeteries to be built such as Battleground National Cemetery and the Vicksburg National Cemetery During this period, mourners decorated graves with bouquets of flowers in remembrance of their deceased friends and family. On the very first Decoration Day, James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery while over 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of over 20,000 Civil War soldiers. The first state to officially recognize this holiday was New York in 1873. The South did not initially accept the holiday and chose to honor soldiers independently. The South finally accepted the holiday after it expanded to remembering soldiers from every war.
In this excerpt from the book Confederate Soldier In the Civil War, Ben La Bree describes a confederate soldier who wanted to help his allies, even if it meant sacrificing his own life:
All day long the wounded were calling, "Water! Water! Water!" In the afternoon, Sergeant Kirtland, a Confederate soldier, went to the headquarters of General Kershaw, and said with deep emotion: "General, all through last night and to-day - I have been hearing those poor wounded Federal soldiers out there cry for water. Let me go and give them some." "Don't you know," replied the general, "that you would get a bullet through you the moment you stepped over the wall?" "Yes, sir," said the sergeant - "but if you will let me go I am willing to try it." The general reflected a minute, then answered: "Kirtland, I ought not to allow you to take this risk, but the spirit that moves you is so noble I cannot refuse. Go, and may God protect you!"
Decoration Day was a direct cause of the civil war. The Civil War ended slavery and created a holiday to remember. On memorial day we honor those who risked their lives and put our freedom first.
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